(ABC News) -- Three waitresses spending their downtime on a slow, snowy Saturday folding silverware and talking about "life stuff" like bills, college and student loans got the answer to their prayers when a diner handed them each a check for $5,000.
Amber Kariolich, Amy Sabani and Sarah Seckinger were working their shift at the Boone County Family Restaurant in Caledonia, Ill., Saturday when a middle-aged woman eating an omelet alone at the counter asked them their names.
A few moments later, the woman handed them each a check written out to them individually and indicated she had overheard their conversation.
"She presented it to us and said to put it in our pockets and use it for school or whatever we needed," Seckinger, 21, told ABCNews.com. "All three of us just started crying."
Seckinger says she and her coworkers had been discussing Kariolich's school loans and Seckinger's dream to go back to school to finish her final semester of a criminal justice degree.
"I stopped school to go to work," said Secking, who has worked at the restaurant for six years.
Kariolich, who was the waitress serving the woman that day, has worked at the restaurant for 10 years and Sabana for nearly two years.
The woman quickly left the family-run restaurant after handing over the checks, but not before arguing with their insistence that she not pay the bill on her $9 omelet.
The restaurant's owner, Matt Nebiu, called the bank after the woman, whom Nebiu says has dined there before but is not a regular, to confirm that the checks are real.
"They said there was no hold on the checks," Nebiu said. "We are in a small population of a town and we've been here for 30-some years and for people to do that you know that there's nice people out there."
"It was very generous," he said.
Seckinger said she plans to use the money to finish her degree and says she and her coworkers still cannot believe their luck.
"It's still surreal," she said.